If your company actively communicates corporate messages to the media, you should remember that journalists have a job to do, and it is not to react to press releases or calls they receive from communications departments or agencies. They try to inform and keep the public informed about current events and issues. They contribute to generating reflections that reinforce or alter states of opinion. They try to be witnesses and narrators of what is happening, providing data, context and interpretation of the facts. For this reason, they need to obtain information from companies in order to write their articles, but also to question it, contrast it and compare it with other sources. However, in this two-way relationship, many common mistakes are made when dealing with the press. Here are five examples.
1. Lack of communication strategy
A communication strategy is a plan that takes into account your overall goals and objectives, your audience and the media landscape. A communication strategy is a tool that allows you to manage corporate and product or service communication management, as well as media demands for information. It is, therefore, a way of defining your messages.
Without a prior strategy, media relations will be based on random and disconnected tactics, and we will fall into a lack of coherence and organisational errors.
Lack of preparation
Preparing for a press conference or interview is more than just figuring out where it will take place and what time it is scheduled. The same goes for preparing your answers: think about how you want to present yourself, what questions you are likely to be asked and how you are going to answer them.
Preparations vary depending on the type of communication medium used and its purpose (press conference, seminar, interview, etc.). For example, when preparing for an interview with a journalist at an international trade fair or other corporate communications event, we can anticipate by talking to people who have already been interviewed by that particular journalist or by reading previously published reports to find out how they approach these encounters. We also look up their articles on the internet to get an idea of their writing style before we meet face-to-face.
3. Not putting yourself in the journalist’s shoes
If a company wants to ensure that its story is told in the best possible way, it needs to understand what motivates journalists and how they work. Failure to do so is one of the common mistakes made in dealing with the press. A journalist’s job is not just to report facts (although accuracy is important). A good journalist will be able to give readers exactly what they want: something to make them think, to surprise them, and to discover something they didn’t know about that is of interest to them.
If a company wants to ensure that its story is told in the best possible way, it needs to understand what motivates journalists and how they work.
For this to happen, the reader must be involved in the topic in question. If he is not interested in it, why should he care about what we have to tell him from the company? The writer also needs enough room for creativity without being constrained by strict guidelines. Finally, there must be editorial independence so that journalists can challenge authority figures, rather than just blindly following orders.
4. Wrong messages for the wrong media
The company’s communications team should know the journalists with whom they interact on a regular basis. They are the ones who will ask questions about the company and its products, services and business model. The communications manager should have a list of the people who have written about the company over time, as well as the agency that works for the company. Journalists who write about similar companies or sectors should also be identified, so that information about new trends in their field can be shared with them.
Every journalist has his or her own style, tone and preferences. For example, some like to work with facts; others prefer stories; others want to see pictures or video in addition to text. The goal is to match the message perfectly to what they want from us as readers. Luckily, at Incognito we can help you manage verbal and non-verbal language so you can communicate exactly what you need to. Find out what we offer you with our Spokesperson Training and learn how to communicate effectively.
5. Not being fast enough
It is important to always be available and to answer questions as soon as possible. We must not leave journalists hanging when they ask us for information.
Don’t wait until the last minute and don’t be afraid to pick up the phone if you know someone is calling for comment or information.
If your company is open with their responses, they are likely to feel more comfortable returning for future visits. And in any case, you can always rely on your agency to channel those communications and help you manage them more efficiently.
Don’t take it personally when they post something negative about you. Don’t try to control their message by giving them only positive information or by allowing yourself to be manipulated into saying things that make you look good in their eyes but don’t help your business.
If there are problems with the press, don’t make accusations of bias or unfairness. It is more productive (and less likely to backfire) if you deal with these problems internally and find solutions.
And in any case, let yourself be advised by those who know. At Incognito we know something about this and we can contribute to help you. Shall we talk?